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[Opinion] Mileages for Law Abiders

Posted January. 08, 2008 04:35,   


The mileage program, which provides customers with a variety of benefits based on their accumulated mileage points, was first introduced by American Airlines in 1981. The airline sparked on the idea from large discount stores which gave gifts to their customers based on the number of stamps shoppers received when purchasing a product. Ever since Korean Air first introduced the mileage program in Korea in 1984, numerous companies have followed its footstep. In fact, it has become so common in Korea that not only mobile phone service providers but also coffee shops and hairdressers find it very difficult to run their business without giving mileage points to their customers.

Along with the emergence of different forms of mileages, such as cash back points and cyber money, the mileage program has become a part of consumption. The so-called, “milers” or “pointers,” who regularly use mileages, seldom pay full price when they drink coffee or watch a movie. Furthermore, books such as “How to Double Mileage Benefits” and “Smart Mileage Business,” are published to guide the consumers to use their mileages wisely. At present, a growing number of people are becoming patrons of the same shops or companies, causing to have a similar consumption pattern. Nonetheless, we must not forget that we receive mileage benefits in return for providing our personal information, as well as purchase information.

In any case, the mileage system, which was first introduced as a means of promoting companies, has penetrated into the donation culture. For example, Naver, a major portal site, has been running a charity campaign where its users can donate mileages they receive while using its email service. The money raised will be spent on cleaning up the oil spill in Taean, donating coal briquettes and helping the less fortunate elderly. Shinhan Card, which has allowed its customers to use their points to donate to politicians, has raised more than 340 million won. There are many companies which make donations to non-profit or civil organizations by converting mileage points to cash.

The mileage system is expected to be applied to the so-called “badgering laws” and “public sentimental laws,” which are prevalent in our society. The Justice Ministry said that it plans to introduce a “legal mileage system” to give its own mileages to companies that have had no strike for a certain period of time. According to its plan, companies will be able to use their accumulated points to write off legal charges and to receive government subsidies or tax incentives. It is not clear how effective the new system will be. However, one thing is certain. We must end the era of “badgering laws.”

Kwon Soon-taek, Editorial Writer, maypole@donga.com